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Arbutus unedo
Arbutus unedo

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Zone
Zones 4-7, 14-19
Full Sun
Full
Regular WaterMinimal Water
Moderate, Minimal

Arbutus menziesii

Madrone, Madrona
Ericaceae
Evergreen, Trees, Decorative fruit or berries

ARBUTUS

These broad-leafed evergreens have ornamental bark, clusters of little urn-shaped flowers, decorative edible fruit, and handsome foliage that looks good year-round. Slow to moderate growth to 8–35 ft. tall, with equal spread. Normally has basal suckers and stem sprouts. 

Provide good drainage, especially if plant receives regular water. Grow in sun or part shade; needs some shade in the desert. Thin its branches to make an open-crowned tree, or plant several and leave unpruned to make a big screen. 

Arbutus menziesii

Native from British Columbia to Southern California in Coast Ranges, occasionally in middle elevations of Sierra Nevada. Mature height ranges from 20–100 ft. Forms broad, round head almost as wide as tall. Its smooth, reddish brown bark peels off in thin flakes. Leathery, 3–6-in.-long leaves are shiny dark green on top, dull gray-green beneath. In spring, large clusters of white to pinkish, bell-shaped flowers appear at branch ends. These are followed in early fall by clusters of brilliant orange to red, rough-coated berries that remain on the tree most of the winter if birds don’t get them. If you live in madrone country and have a tree in your garden, treasure it. Its requirements in gardens outside its native area are exacting: it must have fast drainage and nonalkaline water. Irrigate just enough to keep plants going until they are established, and then give only infrequent and deep watering. Look for new disease-resistant selections.

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